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Taiko no Tatsujin: Rhythm Festival (Switch) Review

by Jordan Rudek - October 24, 2022, 9:00 am EDT
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Marching to the beat of the cutest drum ever, but the push to rent extra content is strong with this one.

Some of my fondest video game-adjacent memories involve Rock Band and Guitar Hero-themed parties, long car rides playing Elite Beat Agents, and overcoming feelings of being homesick by losing myself in the Uematsu-flavored stylings of Theatrhythm Final Fantasy. What I'm getting at is that I'm no stranger to music games. That said, this is my first experience with an actual Taiko no Tatsujin drum, which I used as part of this review for Taiko no Tatsujin: Rhythm Festival. What follows will be a review of both the game and the peripheral, and in both cases the results are an inconsistent mix of interesting and frustrating.

Taiko no Tatsujin, as a franchise, has existed since 2001 and was originally an arcade game. The arcade series itself has seen over two dozen entries, but the first North American console version came to PlayStation 2 in 2004. Its adorable mascot character Don Wada, or DON-chan, or even just DON, and its signature drum-centered rhythm gameplay help these games stand out. I've definitely played multiple Taiko no Tatsujin arcade games growing up, but Rhythm Festival may be the first console version of the series that I've ever owned.

Rhythm Festival isn't the first Taiko title on Switch; that would be Taiko no Tatsujin: Drum 'n' Fun!, which actually had a collector's edition that came bundled with a drum and a physical copy of that game. For review, I was shipped a separate drum and given a digital code for Rhythm Festival. I'll start by sharing my impressions of the game itself and ending with my thoughts on the drum peripheral.

Taiko no Tatsujin: Rhythm Festival's setting of Omiko City has five areas that you can visit from the main hub screen. The Store allows you to use in-game currency earned through playing songs and leveling up to purchase new outfits for DON, instruments to change the sound effects you produce, and name plates and greetings to show off during online play. My Room is where you can adjust settings, calibrate the controls, change your outfit, and rewatch cutscenes.

The real meat of the game is in the next three areas, the online mode of Dondoko Town, the Taiko Mode of Thunder Shrine, and the party mode of Taiko Land. My time with the online portion revealed a fairly robust ranked mode and no issues connecting with opponents. Taiko Land's offerings are multiplayer-centric but can be played solo: DON-chan Band and Great Drum Toy War. The former featured four players performing a song together to earn more fans and complete missions. The latter has individual missions and its own online component where you compete against another player and send toys in a sort of central tug-of-war by playing well. You can even send fake distraction notes to your opponent, giving this particular game mode a bit of a fun twist.

It's likely that most players, at least initially, will spend most of their time with Taiko Mode, which is basically the area where you can freely play any song you choose. There's also a specific feature here called Improvement Support that lets you replay specific sections of songs, perhaps to improve on a particularly tricky set of notes. Whichever mode you play, Rhythm Festival rewards you with experience points and gold to spend. As your Drum Level goes up, you advance along a track that bestows coins, adds stock to the store, and unlocks story beats, which generally involve DON interacting with his pal Kumo-kyun (a cloud, of course).

Where the cracks in DON-chan's colorful facade begin to show is in the music library itself, a fairly vital part of the package. The in-game track library consists of 77 songs, which is actually more than Rock Band shipped with on disc (58) in 2007. But in that game, you had different instruments to learn and play to change the experience. More concerning is that the majority of the tunes in Rhythm Festival are almost certainly going to be unfamiliar to much of the western audience who might pick up the game.

Much of my own enjoyment with music games comes from playing out the fantasy of actually creating the tunes I've loved for so long. As catchy as some of the track lists are in this recent Taiko no Tatsujin game, it's a bit disappointing to not see a bit more variety. That the "Game Music" category (which doesn't include tracks specifically made for previous Taiko games) has only 10 entries is a major disappointment. One saving grace was the inclusion of Persona 5's Life Will Change. Everything starts to come into focus when you realize that there's a separate Music Pass you can purchase that gives you time-limited access (30 or 90 days) to an additional 500-plus songs. Any way you slice it, almost half of all the music available at all in the game falls under the NAMCO Original banner, which generally come from earlier Taiko games. This suggests that Rhythm Festival could be a much better celebration of the franchise's past than an apt starting point for newcomers.

As far as the drum accessory is concerned, my takeaway is that it's more of a novelty than a video game collection staple. The main issue is that even though setting it up and connecting through wired USB connection to the Switch dock is easy and straightforward (despite the lack of English in the instruction manual), using the device to play the game was actually harder than the Joy-Con motion controls or standard button controls. The left side of the drum in particular isn't sensitive enough to regularly register hits on the center or the rim, and so I found myself having to smash my stick against it to activate notes or else stick to playing entirely on the right side of the drum. Even with some practice, trying to complete any song on a difficulty higher than Normal using the drum was an exercise in futility. I could see myself bringing it out at parties for a bit of fun, but I'd need something more accurate to replace the other control methods.

While I was thrilled to finally have a Taiko no Tatsujin drum to try out with Rhythm Festival, the accessory and the game itself left me wanting to a degree. Fans of previous games and Japanese music, including the dozens of anime themes available here, will find a charming and compelling package in DON-chan's latest outing. Others might not appreciate the lack of variety in the basic library, which seems to demand that players fork over for the more robust offerings of the Music Pass. It rubs me the wrong way when, at launch, the base version of a game contains but a fraction of what can be purchased or rented digitally. There's no denying the cute and colorful characters of the Taiko no Tatsujin world, but you're almost forced to pay a premium to keep the party going.


  • Charming and colorful presentation
  • Lots of extras and achievements to unlock
  • Base song list lacks variety
  • Disparity between base game library and Music Pass offerings is troubling
  • Drum peripheral has sensitivity issues

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Game Profile

Taiko no Tatsujin: Rhythm Festival Box Art

Genre Rhythm
Developer Bandai Namco Studios
Players1 - 4

Worldwide Releases

na: Taiko no Tatsujin: Rhythm Festival
Release Sep 23, 2022
PublisherBandai Namco Studios
RatingEveryone 10+
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